This Week's Sermon
Christmas 2 – January 5, 2020 – Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Remember Who Christ Has Made You
Did you do anything exciting for New Year’s Eve? Did you go out to a party somewhere in town or over to a friend’s house? Did you host the party this year? I don’t think I’ve ever done anything “exciting” for New Year’s Eve. Most years, I’m sitting in the living room at my parent’s house, we turn on the TV and watch one of the broadcasts from Times Square. Once the ball drops – which, I might add, is always very anti-climactic – we cheers the new year with a glass of champagne, and then I quickly go to bed.
This year, none of those things changed. My family still did the same thing we’ve always done. But there was a little bit of added excitement because we weren’t just ringing in a new year, we were ringing in a new decade. So all these broadcasts were doing some very interesting segments that were a “look back” on the 2010s. They were a lot of fun to watch. They covered some of the major events of the last tens years, in sports, politics, culture, pretty much everything. It was fun to laugh at some of the things that were popular and think “how on earth did that catch on.”
But those “look backs” also feature some not-so-fun parts. There were tragic events that took place – the earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Sandy, and other natural disasters, the terrorist attacks in Boston and Paris, the horrific mass shootings. There were important and influential people who died and were remembered on New Year’s Eve. The 2010s had their good and their bad.
Did you do a look back on things over the last decade? 10 years ago today, what were your aspirations for the 2010s? What goals and dreams did you have? What did you envision 2020 looking like for you?
I’m guessing some of those things happened. I had the plan and the goal of graduating from college and the seminary and here I am, 10 years later. It took almost the entire decade, but it happened! Maybe you had plans of getting married and starting a family and that’s exactly what you have now. You planned on retiring and relaxing and being able to travel with your spouse. You had a goal of working hard at your job and climbing the ladder, and today you’ve achieved that goal.
But not everything went according to plan. Maybe you lost a loved one. That wasn’t in the plans. You knew it would happen eventually, but not this soon. The relationships you though were strong and healthy, that you thought would endure and only deepen, became bent, twisted, or even broken. You had school and career goals; plans for success. And instead those plans fell flat, you’ve had a number of career changes and you still aren’t entirely sure what you’re going to do with your life.
We’ve all probably had a mixed bag. Some good, some not so good. Maybe you had more good than bad. Or maybe it was the other way around. So the question is, how do you feel about the last decade? Do you feel like a success or a failure? And what about going into the 2020s?
How about spiritually? How are we doing on that end as we enter a new decade?
Taking look back on the 2010s from a spiritual perspective might not be as fun as looking back on our personal lives – even if the 2010s weren’t particularly joyful for you. Think of the bad habits that we got stuck in spiritually. How was your attendance at church? Has it always been a priority, to be here surrounded by those who can support and encourage you in your faith; to receive God’s forgiveness and comfort in both his Word and Sacrament? Or was church one of those things that fell by the wayside? And if you were here, were you here, or was your mind somewhere else? Did your time in the Word during the week take a hit? That’s any easy place to see where we’ve failed. We got so caught up in everything else we had to do, that there “wasn’t enough time” to spend with Jesus. Then there are those sins. You know the ones I’m talking about. Those things you wanted to leave in the past but can’t seem to shake. They were there in 2010 and we hoped and prayed that we would overcome them, and here we are, ten years later, and we’re still caving to the same temptations again and again and again.
Yeah, the last decade was a little rough. Rough enough that you and I look and probably feel like total spiritual failures. A look back reveals our filth and the reality that we have enjoyed our filth. That doesn’t give us a whole lot of confidence as we enter a new year and new decade. We’re dirty and hideous in our sin.
But that’s an important thing to look back and see. Because it makes the portion of Isaiah we have before us today that much more incredible.
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewel. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
God saw how dirty and ugly and filthy you and I were in our sin. And rather than be repulsed by us and look the other way, God chose to change us. He chose to replace our hideous rags of sin and clothe us in the spectacular bridal gown of righteousness. Just think of how beautiful a bride look on her wedding day. The brilliant white. The sparkles. The intricate patterns. That how God chose to clothe us – and he did so having seen all of our failures in 2010s and before. In fact that’s exactly why he chose to give us these new clothes.
And notice the subjects and the objects that Isaiah uses here. “He clothed me.” “He arrayed me.” We did not dress ourselves in these garments. God is responsible. And especially, as today marks the final day of our Christmas celebration on the church calendar, we see how Jesus is responsible. Christmas marks that moment where God’s plan to redress us kicks into high gear. At Christmas it’s no longer a promise, now it’s an action. Christ clothed himself in flesh and blood, so that by living perfectly as one of us, he could clothe us his perfect garments of salvation. He took our sinful rags and wore them on the cross and gave us his robe of righteousness to wear instead. At that means that God doesn’t see our sinful failures in the last decade but instead sees Christ’s perfection on us.
That’s not the only way Isaiah describes us in these verses. He calls us a king’s crown. A royal diadem. It doesn’t matter what country they’re from, a king’s crown is beautiful. It’s filled with dazzling colors and precious gems. That’s what God calls us. And notice how it’s not on God’s head, but in his hands. Why? Because he finds it beautiful and wants to look upon it. The beautiful appearance that Christ has given to us is a source of joy for God. You and I are not our sinful failures from the 2010s. We are not filthy and hideous, covered by our sins. To God we are a breathtaking crown in his hand.
But when is a crown most beautiful? It’s not when it’s locked up behind a safe or hiding away in the dark. A crown is most beautiful when the light hits it and the sparkles cast shards of color on walls and floor. It’s in the light where the crown is truly magnificent. The crown is not the source of the light, it merely reflects it. The light is what makes it jaw-dropping. Being God’s crown comes with it a calling: to make known the light; to make known our God to the world.
“I will not keep silent; I will not remain quiet; the nations will see your vindication and all kings your glory.”
A crown does not choose to reflect light. When the light shines on it, it simply does. So it is with our God. God’s light shines on us from the manger. It shines on us from the cross. It shines on us from his word. And as God’s royal diadem, what does that mean we will do? It means we will reflect that light. That’s why it’s important to be here in church. So that God can shower us with his light. That’s why it’s important to be in his word regularly – not just on Sundays. So that his light shines on us even more. And as we do that, God has promised not only to increase our desire be in his Word, but God has also promised that the light he shines on us will be reflected through us in our lives.
It’s so important to remember who we are as we begin a new year and a new decade. I don’t know what your plans, goals, and aspirations are for the next ten years. But I know not all of them will work out. I know that there will be unexpected turns – and not always in ways that will be enjoyable. But when those moments come, remember who Christ has made you. You are not your failures. You are a Christ’s bride, beautifully dressed in his robe of righteousness. You are not your sins. You are God’s royal crown. You are not filthy and hideous. You reflect the light of our God. You make him known in the world.
May God pour out his blessings on us in this new year. May he fill our hearts with joy as we reflect the light of his love. May he give us confidence and hope as we remember who God has made us.